The 49ers haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet, but they took a step closer to that goal on Sunday.
Trey Lance threw a pair of touchdowns and the defense pitched a shutout after halftime to beat the Texans 23-7 at home. They’ll be in the playoffs if the Saints lose to the Panthers or with a win against the Rams in Week 18, although there will be other scenarios for them to back in with other results in the final week as well.
Lance made the second start of his rookie season with Jimmy Garoppolo sidelined by a right thumb injury and had a hard time generating points in the first half, but found more success after halftime. He hit Elijah Mitchell for a touchdown in the third quarter that put them up for the first time all afternoon and then found Deebo Samuel for a 45-yard score in the fourth quarter.
He finished 16-of-23 for 249 yards and the two touchdowns wound up looming much larger than his first half interception. Mitchell ran 21 times for 119 yards and Brandon Aiyuk put up 94 yards on four catches for the Niners.
The Texans only picked up 222 yards over the course of the afternoon and had their biggest second half gains on a pair of pass interference penalties that set up a Ka’imi Fairbairn missed field goal from 45 yards. Samuel scored his touchdown a few plays later and the game was effectively out of reach once he reached the end zone.
Houston will wrap up the season against the Titans, so they can play spoiler for Tennessee’s chances of being the top seed in the conference if they pull off a sweep of their AFC South. That will likely take a better offensive effort and such production may escape them until next season.